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“Right before departure, I was separated from my family and taken off the train at Amsterdam Central Station. They took me to a children’s home. I was only two years old, so I don’t have a lot of memories. I do remember that every time someone rang the door, I had to hide in the basement. When the war ended, I went from one foster family to another. I have lived in over 27 different foster homes. It was not a secure upbringing. When I nine, I discovered ballet. A few years later, I got accepted into a dance company. I’ve been told that dancing is for prostitutes, but I never cared. I always said, ‘if dancing is for prostitutes, then I’m a prostitute.’ Dancing became a way for me to express my emotions. I met my ex-husband when I was eighteen, and we had two children. I became a dance teacher. Even though life continued, I never stopped having questions about my past, what exactly happened to my parents, and what my life was like in the children’s home. Since my family was Jewish, I have always assumed they got deported to the death camps, but it was never confirmed. When there is nobody to verify your story, you sometimes doubt if it really happened. I have never been able to find anything about my past until twelve years ago. I was at my foster mother’s house when my then-boyfriend called and said there’s an article in the paper about the children’s home. I picked up the paper and saw multiple photos of emaciated children. Amongst those children, I saw a little girl. It was me. Someone had found a box of files and pictures at the garbage and brought it to a journalist. Amongst those files, statements were detailing the abuse, neglect, and mistreatment that took place in the children’s home. I remember I was shaking reading the article. It was painful and confronting, but at the same time, it felt like recognition. For the first time, I could say this is not a story that I made up. This really happened.”
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“I never had a strong desire to become a parent. Neither did my wife. We took over my parents cafe instead. We worked for more than 40 years to keep the business going. You could say that the cafe was our child. When we retired we had to sell the cafe. It was hard giving up our business. However, we still live above the cafe and the new owners are doing a great job. Now that I am retired, I spend most of my days reading the paper and taking walks around Amsterdam. When I am tired I stay nearby. When I feel adventurous, I explore different parts of town. My wife and I, we do our own thing. We have no rules. Well except for one: Every day at 5PM we meet at the house and we drink a glass of dry white wine in the living room. No matter how far I walk, she knows I’ll be home 5PM sharp.”
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2/2 “During my depression, I lost all my friends except for one friend. Her name is Kultum. Somehow she always stayed by my side. Even though I felt that I could not trust anyone, she never gave up on me.  Looking back, there are a few things that saved my life. The first thing was having someone to talk to and the second thing is Michael Jackson. His music, his lyrics gave me so much power and strength. I still struggle to speak about my emotions but I have a strong urge to do so. Even this conversation was really hard to have.”

(Tunis, Tunisia)

“I was seven when I started writing in my diary. It was in the middle of the civil war and the basement of our building which was a clothing factory became our shelter. From my little window I could see the snipers aim and bombs falling on Beirut. I was so affected by the war that I would write down everything I saw and felt. My diary had a beautiful green cover and it became my best friend, my all time confidant. Every time I finished writing I would hide it as a treasure so no one could find it. At some point our neighborhood became a hotspot. Bombs were flying around so we had to flee. I was afraid of losing my diary so I hid it very carefully in the shelter where I was sleeping. One year later, when we returned, the building had been rebuild after all the damage of the war. The first thing I did was look for my diary but it was nowhere to be found. For many years I searched until at some point I came to realize that I would never find it again. I couldn’t write for a long time. I felt that I had lost my story. Sometimes, I still stand in front of that same building and I feel like that 7-year-old-girl again who wants to go into the shelter to try to find her diary, to find her story.”
(Beirut, Lebanon)

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‘’I studied marketing in Ethiopia. After graduation, I worked for a while but I wasn’t making enough to provide for my family. I heard about an agency that was recruiting people to work in Lebanon so I applied. Leaving my 2-year-old daughter behind was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I came to Lebanon on the 29th of December 2007. When I arrived, a lot of things were different from what the agency had told me. I didn’t know that I would become a domestic worker and that I would work seven days a week in family’s house. The first 3 months I barely stepped out of the house. I had no idea that I had the right to have a day off. After 3 months I learned to speak up for myself. The family I worked for ended up moving abroad so I started working for another family. I don’t want to talk about my experience with that family but it wasn’t good, I ended up running away. I am now working for my third family. I am lucky because they are good people. The hardest part about this job is that my mother raises my daughter and I am here taking care of other people’s children. In a few months I will be going back to Ethiopia for a visit. I am so happy to see my daughter again. In those nine years I have only been back once. She is 11 years old now. I have to accept the situation as it is. I will do anything to provide for her, even if that means I don’t get to see her grow up..“
(Beirut, Lebanon)

2/2 “My parents had four children and I am one of them. When I was 8, my father decided that we should move to Lebanon in order to reconnect with our Lebanese heritage. When I was 18, I met a boy and we started to go out. It was the same year that my parents decided to move back to Venezuela. My mother said: ‘’Lulu, this guy seems very nice. Why don’t you marry him and stay here in Lebanon?’’ I told her that I really liked him but that I still wanted to study. She said that I could always go back to university once I got married. I thought about it and I decided to marry him. I really liked him. He was an architect, a gentleman and most of all he really respected my freedom. After one year our son was born. I remember the years that followed
as a period filled with parties, having a lot of fun and living life to the fullest. Seven years after my first son was born I got pregnant again. After I gave birth to our second son, I received a letter from my mother and it said: ‘’Have you forgotten about university?’’ She wrote: ‘’Even though you have a husband, you need to be able to take care of yourself. Make sure to have a diploma in your hands.’’ That is when I decided to go to art school and I became a painter.”
(Beirut, Lebanon)